“Kids love a big pit! They love a headband, ”says Tali Clarke, writer and director of the punk queer pantomime Madre Goose, which will be streamed this month.
Madre Goose tells the story of an LGBTQ + community of activists protesting against violence and extremism. It’s all grim costumes, silly characters and silly jokes as you’d expect from a panto, but there’s punk songs, a psychedelic green screen backdrop and an inclusion.
“The problem with a lot of pantos, when you start watching, is that they are very racist, they adhere to traditions that are completely old-fashioned,” Clarke tells me. “They can be very homophobic and transphobic and have binary roles. The main boy is often played by a woman but all the statements are the same when it comes to man, woman, beauty… Many individuals feel embarrassed by that , and families feel alienated. ”
Clarke is the founder of a community group, Pride Punx, which she started in London in 2016 as a bog at the London Pride parade. Bands played on the open top truck and gaggle of LGBTQ + pogoed punks behind it. The project was designed as a bridge between the punk scene and mainstream LGBTQ + culture.
“I wanted to create something inclusive while adding another element to it,” Clarke explains. “I wanted to keep it gloomy, keep it DIY. That’s what Pride Punx has always done. Take things that aren’t always considered punk and bring it in. “
The panto is a twist on Mother Goose with the evil demon king Mephisto kicked off as a real estate developer who increases everyone’s rent on the estate. Madre Goose leads the way in redistributing wealth and fighting eviction and corruption. Three of the characters are identified as non-existent, with intro cards appearing identifying the characters’ representatives at the beginning.
But with the political promises, is Madre Goose for everyone?
“It sets out a vision that could be seen as political or simply readable. I don’t think anything of it is politically offensive, opinions are not just pushed. An original panto can be very strong in the way it says, seo it’s good seo it’s bad, seo is beauty, seo is male, seo is female. Panto is already doing so strongly. ”
The theater community has been hit hard after being beaten this year. The Covid national standards have encouraged “shock and frustration” in theaters and travel companies; some have taken their pantos on the road and others may have to close their doors nicely.
“For most theaters, panto is their main source of income. So it has a huge cultural impact. Theaters are feeling great now, with the year we’ve been, ”says Clarke. “Panto is such a funny tradition. It’s a lovely side to Christmas and is incredibly child-centric. This has been a difficult year for everyone, but it has been very difficult for many children. ”
She found the actors from Red Rash Inn, an immersive theater collection who have performed at the Boomtown festival and are proud to celebrate “diversity, sexual fluency, body condition and sexual freedom”.
Clarke tells me: “They are amazing with their outfits and outfits, and ready to try and laugh, it’s a perfect collaboration. ”
For the music, she has remained true to her punk roots and kept it different – “a little heavier but also shows the diversity of other music as well”. Featured bands include Scottish Gay Panic Defense hardcore punks.
Compiling the production at lockdown was a challenge. After sending green screens to everyone, she steered the speed of each scene through Zoom, asking the actors to register themselves with their phones and send her the cookies. She even had to convert her house into a mobile studio. During pre-production, in a grim and unexpected case of life imitating art, one of the actors was kicked out of their squat and became homeless. “It was a terrible time for them, but they still wanted to get involved. So they came to my house and we did it socially. ”
The panto is available on a pay-as-you-go basis and raises money for The Outside Project, a homeless charity that creates safe spaces and shelters for homeless members of the LGBTQ + community. But it’s also about “ending the year with a big rusty bang,” Clarke said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
Young headbangers and others are invited to a live fundraising watch party on December 21, when the pre-recorded show will be shown and the team will come together to encourage audience participation.